NZ Police Must Be Exorcised of Culture of Sexual Offending Leniency

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Roastbusters.

Independent Authority Must Be Established To Rid NZ Police of this Culture of Leniency Toward Sexual Offending.

EDITORIAL by Selwyn Manning:

NEW ZEALAND POLICE’S HANDING

of the Roastbusters sexual offending case has been slammed by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. The IPCA found serious deficiencies in investigative practices, file recording, collaboration with CYF, and case supervision involving Police investigations into members of the Roastbusters gang and their sexual predation of young vulnerable teenage girls.

Important References:

This IPCA report is a damning indictment against the Police, particularly as the report questions once again whether New Zealand Police as an institution harbours a culture tolerant of abuse toward women.

Judge Sir David Carruthers.
Judge Sir David Carruthers.

Officially, the IPCA chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, recommends that New Zealand Police:

i)  initiate an audit by the National Manager, Adult Sexual Assault/Child Protection Team into current cases being investigated by Waitemata CPT to determine whether any individual shortcomings still exist;
ii)  determine whether any other practice or policy issues need to be addressed, either nationally or in Waitemata, and in particular whether more emphasis is required on prevention;
iii)  ensure that the core training modules for CPT investigators provide adequate instruction on, and guidance about, the application of sections 128 and 134 of the Crimes Act 1961; and
iv)  advise the Authority of the outcome and any intended action by Police.

The IPCA found that the Police officers investigating the Roastbusters crimes failed on numerous accounts, including how ‘staff did not properly evaluate all available offenses when determining the outcome of their respective investigations’.

However, the more you digest IPCA report, the more disturbing it becomes. On reading the document, it is clear New Zealand Police have failed the young victims of these crimes and more. It is reasonable to assert, the IPCA findings demonstrate how the Police, as an institution, is unable to self-assess what ought to be done about this enduring culture of leniency toward sexual crimes and abuse.

Clearly, the IPCA has not recommended that an authority outside the Police club be established and empowered to root out this culture once and for all. But that is the elephant in the IPCA room.

THE IPCA INVESTIGATION COMMENCED in November 2013 after the then Minister of Police Anne Tolley, and Labour spokesperson Jacinda Ardern, asked it to conduct and inquiry into Police handling of the Roastbusters case.

In December 2013 the IPCA “was notified by Police of a complaint made by a young woman regarding Police’s handling of a sexual assault complaint she made to them in November 2011, which involved members of the ‘Roastbusters’ group. The Authority was already aware of this incident and it was being considered as part of the Authority’s investigation…”

The Authority has made the following findings:

114.1 The initial response to the incidents by GDB and CIB staff was adequate and proper.
114.2 CPT staff did not adequately follow up and pursue positive lines of enquiry.
114.3 CPT staff should have more accurately recorded and more adequately assessed information obtained during their respective investigations.
114.4 Officer B’s supervision and oversight of the cases for which he was responsible was adequate and appropriate.
114.5 Officer C did not adequately supervise and oversee the cases for which he was responsible.
114.6 The fact that the father of one of the young men was a Police officer had no influence on Police’s handling of the investigations.
114.7 CPT staff did not properly evaluate all available offences when determining the outcome of their respective investigations.
114.8 CPT staff failed to properly consider alternative action to address the potential offending behaviour of the young men involved and their care and protection issues.
114.9 CPT staff did not adequately communicate and engage with the young men and their families.
114.10 CPT staff did not adequately consult and communicate with external stakeholders.
114.11 CPT staff, particularly at supervisory level, did not adequately communicate with each other.

Significantly, the IPCA concluded: “The Authority appreciates that the incidents involving the ‘Roastbusters’ presented Police with a complex set of challenges. The reprehensible and unacceptable behaviour demonstrated by this group of young men was further complicated by other issues. These included the vulnerability and fragility of the young women, the impact of peer, familial and social pressures in adolescence, attitudes towards sexual behaviour and the use of alcohol and other drugs, and the influence of youth culture and social media.”

The offending by these men tests our society on so many levels. One cannot imagine these offenders getting away with such crimes should their gang be known as the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, the Killer Bees, or even the Hell’s Angels.

That this Roastbusters gang got away with serial rape and sexual violation of most vulnerable young women – at a time in their teenage lives when a sense of recourse is so often overwhelmed by a sense of intimidation – applies layers of shame not just upon the perpetrators of these crimes, but also upon the Police as an institution. After all, it is the Police that is charged to bring offenders before the courts, and, prevent (where it can) offences from being committed.

As a society, we have a responsibility to ensure such abuses are arrested and prevented. The Police is our arm of law enforcement and privileged among other public institutions seek out crime and enforce/argue the consequences via the judiciary.

Catriona MacLennan, lawyer, writer, and women's advocate.
Catriona MacLennan, lawyer, writer, and women’s advocate.

As Catriona MacLennan, lawyer and writer who specialises in women’s advocacy, said today: “Today’s report identifies some of the same deficiencies as was found in 2010. Police should have taken immediate action to halt the boys’ (Roastbusters) behaviour, but they did not.”

Catriona MacLennan added her concerns that New Zealand Police seem to believe a complaint is needed from a victim before a prima facie case can be asserted.

“They (Police) need to be more proactive in obtaining evidence,” she said.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority stated today: “… it is unlikely they (Roastbusters) could have ever been dealt with meaningfully and effectively solely by Police.”

But also added: “Regrettably, Police had numerous opportunities to ‘connect the dots’ earlier, to generate a more organised, expansive and cohesive response, and to work in collaboration with CYF, the schools, and the parents of these young men to prevent their behaviour from continuing.”

On that important element of Policing (crime prevention) New Zealand Police failed.

The IPCA concluded that Police errors occurred largely at the local level, among the investigating officers themselves. But it also stated: “… the lack of emphasis on prevention may be indicative of a more general problem with policy and practice requiring further attention. Police, themselves, have acknowledged that this is an area requiring further policy development to guide Police practice.”

Considering this, I argue that the public interest demands that the Minister of Police and the Prime Minister step up and establish an authority that is empowered to root out of Police ranks this culture of leniency toward sexual offending and abuse.

Obviously this solution is well beyond the recommendations of the IPCA. And, understandably, the Office of the Commissioner will resist such a move.

But I argue here, that when you consider complaint was made to Police, that victims were spoken to, offenders were identified, facts acquired, but still no charge was forthcoming, that this is demonstrable of a break down of decision making when Police Prosecutions officers assessed whether a prima facie case was in evidence.

Was this a breakdown in methodology alone? I suspect not. Why?

For the record, the IPCA report states:

      “… four separate incidents involving the ‘Roastbusters’ group between late 2011 and early 2013. In each of these incidents the young men had allegedly engaged in sexual conduct with young women in circumstances that might have involved criminality. These reports were from the young women themselves or family members.

During its investigation into the adequacy of the Police handling of complaints or reports received about the ‘Roastbusters’, the Authority identified that Police also responded to three other reports of concern involving young women and this group of young men.

As at the date of this report, none of the Police investigations has resulted in criminal charges being laid by Police against members of the group.”

It’s important to realise it is now 11 years since the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, headed by Dame Margaret Bazley asserted New Zealand Police’s child abuse policy ‘was being applied consistently by Police and was “working well in practice”’.

Within two political terms Dame Margaret was found to be wrong.

As the IPCA stated in the Roastbusters report: “… a special investigation, the ‘Inquiry into Police Conduct, Practices, Policies and Procedures Relating to the Investigation of Child Abuse, commenced by the Authority in December 2009, found that this was not, in fact, the case in a number of policing districts around the country.”

The IPCA also stated: “In May 2010, at the conclusion of the inquiry, the Authority made 34 recommendations to Police to rectify the shortcomings identified.”

But the Police have been found to have failed on this account.

“It is disturbing that several themes identified as a result of the Authority’s child abuse inquiry (such as deficiencies in investigative practices, file recording, collaboration with CYF, and case supervision) have, again, been highlighted in the Authority’s current investigation,” the IPCA stated.

These conclusions paint a picture of an arrogant force resistant to outside commands.

To illustrate the point, Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said today:

Commissioner of Police, Mike Bush.
Commissioner of Police, Mike Bush.

 

“Police have worked hard over the past few years to improve the standard of investigation and prosecution of child abuse and adult sexual assault cases and I note the Authority found no evidence of ongoing and widespread poor practice nationally.”NZ Police carry out 14,000 child abuse and adult sexual assault investigations every year. The overwhelming majority of these cases are managed professionally by highly motivated staff. I can assure the public of New Zealand that the failings of a few staff at a point in time do not represent national practice. I can reassure victims that they can bring complaints to us and we will investigate them properly and fairly.

“I’m confident the remedial actions taken in Waitemata since the Roastbusters allegations came to light in late 2013 will help prevent such a situation arising again.

“Changes already made include better coordination, oversight and supervision of child protection and adult sexual abuse investigations and changes to case review practices.”

And Waitemata Police District Commander Superintendent Bill Searle has offered a public apology to the young women at the centre of the investigation into alleged offending by the Roastbusters group.

Searle said his apology is for the shortcomings outlined in today’s Independent Police Conduct Authority report.

An Historical Context is needed:
It is proper to connect this Roastbusters case to the dark years of Police abuse of young women, the culture of cover-ups where career promotions were dished out even to officers central to the most awful offending.

The experiences of those victims would have remained unknown if it weren’t for the bravery of Louise Nicholas and others – exposed by investigative journalist Phil Kitchen .

Their real life accounts provide a window in on a Police culture that would otherwise have been denied or kept well hidden.

This is the backstory to a shameful period in the history of New Zealand Police. This Roastbusters scandal demonstrates elements of this culture linger on.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority made the following recommendations:

i)  initiate an audit by the National Manager, Adult Sexual Assault/Child Protection Team into current cases being investigated by Waitemata CPT to determine whether any individual shortcomings still exist;
ii)  determine whether any other practice or policy issues need to be addressed, either nationally or in Waitemata, and in particular whether more emphasis is required on prevention;
iii)  ensure that the core training modules for CPT investigators provide adequate instruction on, and guidance about, the application of sections 128 and 134 of the Crimes Act 1961; and
iv)  advise the Authority of the outcome and any intended action by Police.

Yes, the public interest demands these matters be addressed. But the matter of exorcising the Police of those who permit this culture to endure must be commanded by an authority outside the club, outside of the Police institution itself.

In my view, New Zealand Police have been found unworthy of self-examination not just once but repeatedly (as noted by the IPCA above), and, those who are guardians of the institution have done little beyond acknowledgement to address a jaundiced culture of unsafe practice that remains alive and well inside New Zealand Police.

Commissioner Mike Bush said today:

“This report has learnings that are relevant for many Police staff. As this case shows, it can be difficult for officers to balance the wishes of victims with the need to fully investigate serious allegations and prevent future offending. We’re further developing our national child abuse and adult sexual assault policies to give our officers better guidance in this area.”

But the National Council of Women of New Zealand’s President Rae Duff said:

“Previous reports have highlighted issues with police culture. While the IPCA report recognises that Police have improved as a result, it’s still not good enough.

“The police response to Roastbusters is evidence of how sexism in our society plays out within an institution and it resulted in a travesty of justice for these young women.”

I’m sorry Mr Bush, but we have heard such reassurances from the Office of the Commissioner before. Public confidence has been eroded and words will not cut it.

A political response must now be swift, direct, and resolving. We now realise the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, headed by Dame Margaret Bazley, was the beginning, not the end.

The question is, does Executive Government have the resolve.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues.
Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia’s FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand’s The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Time for more transparency and integrity from
    Police, how can the up hold the Rule of Law
    if hiding behind a veil of secrecy and cover ups, for their errors and deleberately framing
    many people are not actually criminals if the
    true facts where known, not elaborated by Police verbals.
    Ross Morant has sumerised it very
    well in his articles on the Police.
    There is a greater need for more Officers to take a stand like Mr Morant.
    “How can society trust the Police,if the Police can not be Trusted?”

  2. Time for more transparency and integrity from
    Police, how can the up hold the Rule of Law
    if hiding behind a veil of secrecy and cover ups, for their errors and deleberately framing
    many people are not actually criminals if the
    true facts where known, not elaborated by Police verbals.
    Ross Morant has sumerised it very
    well in his articles on the Police.
    There is a greater need for more Officers to take a stand like Mr Morant.
    “How can society trust the Police,if the Police can not be Trusted?”

Comments are closed.